Compare and contrast the themes of loss of innocence, betrayal and motherhood as portrayed in the poems 'Cousin Kate' and 'The Seduction' Essay
The Seduction by Eileen McAuley is a poem in some ways similar to ‘Cousin Kate - Compare and contrast the themes of loss of innocence, betrayal and motherhood as portrayed in the poems 'Cousin Kate' and 'The Seduction' Essay introduction. ‘ It is set in the early to late 1980s in Liverpool. The urban setting is unpleasant ad the poem has many of the same themes as in Rosetti’s poem, such as innocence and naivety. The mood and tone of the poem is dark and depressing. There is not a rigid rhyme scheme to this poem, although in most verses there is an alternate rhyme scheme. The poem begins with the line; “After the party, early Sunday morning,” this gives us a time setting and information about what is happening in the poem. He led her to the quiet bricks of Birkenhead docks” this sets a seedy atmosphere, and shows us that the male character has the active role, as he is the one doing the leading.
The personification of the bricks is there to illustrate the absolute silence of the area they are in. “Far past the silver stream of traffic through the city,” gives the impression that the traffic is attractive, or beautiful and this is something they are moving away from, she is being led away from civilization. Far past the blind windows of the tower blocks,” refers back to the silence, no one is aware of what they are doing, as they are sleeping. The repetition of the word ‘Far’ also emphasizes their withdrawal from society. This is a direct contrast to ‘Cousin Kate’ as she went to a fairy tale palace of the rich Lord, whereas the girl in the poem is going to a sordid setting.
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“He sat down in the darkness, leather jacket creaking madly,” reinforces the dark mood of the poem. “He spat into the river,” again adds to the unpleasantness of the location. He handed her the vodka, and she knocked it back like water,” this line tells us again that he is the one in control, she appears to be very nervous by the way she drinks the alcohol, like this is a new situation to her. “She giggled, drunk and nervous, and he muttered “little slag,” this reveals that the boy has absolutely no respect for the girl. She is likely to be too drunk to realise that he disrespects her.
This relates back to Rosetti’s poem, in that the narrator was young and nai??ve as well and believed everything the Lord told her. She had met him at the party, and he’d danced with her all night. He’d told her about football; Sammy Lee and Ian Rush. ” These lines explain to the reader how they met, and how the boy must have seen her as an easy target as he stayed with her the whole night, perhaps with a plan in mind. He only talks about what he likes, and this shows him as being single-minded. “She had nodded, quite enchanted, and her eyes were wide and bright,” this line hints at the probability of her falling in love with him.
She probably doesn’t understand or care about the sports he is talking about, but due to her inexperience, she is obviously flattered at the attention. In the same way, the narrator in ‘Cousin Kate’ was flattered by the Lord’s attention to her, as she too was unused to it. I thin that this is sad because they were both so nai??ve to believe all that they were being told and did not have enough experience to understand their circumstances. “As he brought her more drinks, so she fell in love,” indicates that this was the boy’s scheme, to get her so drunk so that he could use her.
Also, we see that she only feel in love with him when she was drunk, this suggests that had she been sober she would never have done anything with the boy, and that she is not a “slag” as the boy put it. “With the fingers that stroked her neck and thighs,” suggests that he is luring her subtly. “With the kisses that tasted of nicotine,” gives a distasteful and nasty image. I think that these are quite disturbing images. Not only is she being used, but it is in such a foul and disgusting manner. Then: ‘I’ll take you to the river where I spend the afternoons, When I Should be at school, or eating me dinner'” The use of direct speech adds to the reality of the poem and he is again doing most of the talking. “And a bag filled with shimmering, sweet paint thinner,” this line is different to the rest of the boy’s dialogue as he is talking almost poetically using a pretty metaphor to describe his way out of life, his urban misery. I find this quite ironic that he uses beautiful words when he is about to be incredibly cruel to this girl.
So she followed him there, all high white shoes,” the colour white indicates the girl’s virginity and purity. The high shoes also represent the girl trying to be grown-up. The theme of purity was also used in ‘Cousin Kate’ and the colour white was symbolized on a dove. “All wide blue eyes,” signifies her innocence. “And sat in the dark, her head rolling forward, Towards the frightening scum on the water,” this line connotes the danger she is getting closer and closer to, she has lost complete control and cannot turn back. “The Mersey, green as a septic wound,” this unpleasant simile adds to the grim reality of her situation. Then, when he swiftly contrived to kiss her, His kiss was scented by Listerine,” this confirms that he had planned to use her along and his kiss is illustrated as being chemical and nasty. “And she stifled a giggle,” demonstrates her childish immaturity. “Reminded of numerous / Stories from teenage magazines… ” brings up the theme of the fantasy world she lives in.
“When she discovered she was three months gone, She sobbed in the cool locked darkness of her room” she has found out that she is pregnant, and she doesn’t know how to deal with her sudden change of future. And she ripped up all her My Guy and her Jackie photo-comics, until they were just bright paper, like confetti, strewn”! This line describes how she has left her childhood and her magazines were part of her fantasy world she had made up about being an adult. The confetti is paradoxical because she is not going to get married, the boy used her, and it is very doubtful that he will wed her. “And on that day she broke the heels/Of her white shoes (as she flung them at the wall),” this line signifies the end of her virginity and innocence and she is trying to destroy them as they were part of the night she conceived.
There are parallels between Rosetti’s poem and McAuley’s, in that both girls were used by men and impregnated because of their ignorance to reality. “She was truly truly frightened,” the girl has stepped into childhood and she’s lost. She doesn’t know what everyone is going to say and she is scared of the unknown future that awaits her. The repetition of ‘truly’ suggests that the girl said these words herself. “But more than that, cheated by the promise of it all,” she has been betrayed by her magazines that promised that the first time would be perfect as shown in the line;
“Where strangers could lead you to bright new worlds. I find this line dismal and depressing as her dream of Prince Charming has been shattered, leaving her alone in the grimness of reality – a child in an adult situation. This shows the theme of betrayal that is in both poems. In Rosetti’s, the narrator was betrayed by her Cousin, and the girl in McAuley’s was betrayed by her magazines. “Now, with a softly rounded belly, she was sickened every morning / By stupid promises, only tacitly made,” the girl has morning sickness every morning and she blames her pregnancy on the lost magazine life she wanted, but shall never have. So she cried that she had missed all the innocence around her,” her youth has gone in an instant.
“But then again, better to be smoking scented drugs / or festering, invisibly, unemployed,” the girl would rather lead a teenagers life style, than to become a mother, she wants her youth back again. “Better to destroy your life in modern, man-made ways, than to fall into this despicable, feminine void,” this conveys her feelings of loss and betrayal, the main themes of the poems, of herself, the magazines and the boy. Better to starve yourself, like a sick, precocious child,” this lines reveals her fear of her parents finding out about the child and so she tries to make herself not look pregnant. “And better, now, to turn away, fade away, ” displays her lack of hope and optimism. “To have the neighbours whisper that “you always looked the type,” I find this line sad because the girl is being stereotyped as some sort of slut, when all that was wrong with her was her immaturity and innocence. She, like in ‘Cousin Kate’ has not been given a name.
I think this could be because they were used and the men who used them weren’t interested in them as a person. The girls do not have an identity, it brings us back to the metaphor of the glove in Rosetti’s poem; “He changed me like a glove. ” I find this incongruous, as the men were so intimate with both the girls, but they were not important enough to be given names. In conclusion, I think that it is sad that both the women lost their innocence, virginity and childhood in the same way. They were both used by men and left to deal with the consequences of their immaturity.
Both women dealt with this new experience of motherhood in different ways. The narrator in ‘Cousin Kate’ was happy that she had the child in the end because she loved him dearly, and she was proud of him. However, the girl in McAuley’s poem was extremely unhappy with her situation and was unable to find any positive aspect of it. She saw her pregnancy as a curse, a waste of youth. I think that McAuley’s poem is more poignant because at the end of it, it did not get any better for the girl.
At least in ‘Cousin Kate’ she was able to have some small revenge, in that the Lord’s wife was infertile, but the girl in ‘The Seduction’ was left scared, and unable to tell anyone about her mistake pregnancy. In ‘Cousin Kate,’ the man, who she loved, and by her cousin, who stepped in and took it away from her, betrays the narrator. In ‘The Seduction,’ her magazines that had promised her a blissful life with the boy-next-door betray the girl. Both portray the girls’ innocence and ignorance. I found the poem sad and emotional, as the women were simply used by men who had no morals.
I thought that ‘The Seduction’ was darker and more depressing than ‘Cousin Kate’ as the setting was dirty and seedy and the plot grittier, it made it more disturbing to read. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for the girl in McAuley’s poem, we were left with the image of her being scared and alone. I think that because of the more depressing tone of the poem, ‘The Seduction’ was more effective in showing us the careless evil of some people in life. However, I think that ‘Cousin Kate’ is still as effective and relevant today as it was one hundred years ago, it shows us that some things never change.